Center for Strategic Decision Research



Transitioning into the Information Age

Mr. Robert Lentz
Director of Information Assurance
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Networks and Information Integration

This panel on the information age is a panel that grew out of a lot of discussions we have had over the years about how we in NATO, how we in the EU, we in general, are transitioning into the information age. This past January, when we had an informal session that Roger asked to be put together in preparation for this workshop, one of the key discussion topics was trying to actually establish a panel to concentrate on this subject of the information age and the impact on global security. And so that is why we have this panel on the agenda.

When we organized the panel, it reminded me, since I come from the Department of Defense, of a panel that we put together five years ago for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in which we brought in some of the leading industries within the United States that are heavily involved in transitioning into the information age. We brought some twelve different companies in, companies including Fedex, Boeing, AT&T, and several from the automotive industry. What started off to be only an hour discussion just for the Secretary of Defense ended up being a four-hour discussion in which the Secretary adjusted his plans and stayed for two of those four hours, which, according to his staff, was unheard of. And then after about fifteen minutes into the initial discussion, Secretary Rumsfeld turned to his aide and said something; the next thing we know, the Deputy Secretary of Defense showed up, Secretary Wolfowitz, and then about three minutes later each of the Service Secretaries showed up from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Defense; they all stayed for the next hour and a half.

The reason why that is important is because these industry leaders were very frank with the Secretary and his leadership that if you continue to stay in industrial age processes, you are going to find yourself not advancing at all, not achieving the transformation that his leadership team wants to accomplish in their term. And he took that very seriously and I am convinced, even though I do not have direct evidence of this, that when Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz moved on to the World Bank, it was one of the key reasons why the Secretary of Defense chose Gordon England, who was from industry and with the reputation of being an information age catalyst, to replace him.

The other thing that has happened is that he has invoked a number of changes within the Department of Defense because of that. The most important is that he established a very prominent role of the Chief Information Officer, which was one of the recommendations that was consistent along all these companies that you needed to have a catalyst, you needed to have a transformation agent, and you needed to have someone well schooled in information technology if you are going to be successful. And you actually needed to have a “ruthless czar,” a quote that was common in this discussion, leading your transformation. The Secretary nodded his head and he in fact has done just that. He has made the CIO for the Department, the Chief Information Officer, a member of his top leadership team, a group of twelve, with all the Under Secretaries.

I made that a prelude to this discussion because as I said, in past workshops and then again in January, it was a consensus of many people that NATO in particular was not moving fast enough, was not agile enough to keep pace with technology, and was not keeping pace with the kind of capabilities required to be able to meet this globalized force that we heard about today, that we have heard about from the Minister of Defense of Germany and General Jones, etc. Some felt that significant transformation was needed or NATO would become increasingly ineffective and some actually went so far as to say, completely irrelevant. Many thought that the root cause was not adjusting to these information age changes and that we were constantly being stuck in the 20th thcentury industrial age Cold War way of operating, which is the concern that we had in DOD when we looked at our processes. I think that the example that General Jones used yesterday about the acquisition process and the fact that it takes three to four years to be able to respond to a commander’s request, a plea for help, is indicative of the kind of transformation that any information age business or agency or government entity cannot afford not to have happen. And that is the concern that many had about NATO.

So, often these discussions came around to: “Let’s ask some of our industry leaders to give us those experiences.” That’s what we have done today, Roger and I, in putting together this panel. It is a very esteemed panel, it is one that has the experiences of living in a world that is fully immersed in multiple communities of interest, dealing with customer sets that are very diverse, and used to dealing with information technology in their military or civilian experiences and to leveraging that to the betterment of the commands that they have or the businesses that they run. So as we heard today and yesterday, as NATO expands, moves from regional to global security, implements deployable headquarters, and tries to counter the asymmetric threat (as a security person, which is my main job, that is my number one concern) it is our adversaries, the terrorists, and others who are looking as we transition into the information age and they are going to go after the area that is easily exploitable. I think most people realize, just looking at their home computers and their IT systems, that they can be easily exploited. So, if we are not prepared as we hook our forces together and begin to move into the information age for this asymmetric threat, we are going to be in trouble.

When I am asked the question about NATO and its maturity and net-centric operations (I am often asked the question when I speak to groups about the Department of Defense and its maturity level in that area) my answer ranges between about a 2 and a 3 out of 10 for the Department of Defense. We have a long way to go and when you hear this group speak and groups like Microsoft and Northrop-Grumman, which are implementing technology to its greatest extent, I think that the first question I would have is, if you have independent experts just spend one week at NATO and its operations and compare that to the modern industries that are out there today leveraging technology, I would be very surprised to see NATO at a very high maturity level , just like I do not think DOD is at a very high maturity level. So when I hear during this workshop how NATO does not have the resources, NATO wants to become more globalized, NATO wants to collaborate with more and more different partners, wants to work with private organizations and stabilize and work with NGOs etc., it is not going to be able to do that with an archaic information technology capability. And, as Jonas Persson says, we are not going to be able to maximize the return on that limited investment that countries can bring to the table in the way NATO is organized today.

So, as we talk with great vision about how we want to move NATO forward, if we do not have that complemented with the kind of information age processes that we are talking about, we are not going to be successful. As Mr. Schneider talked about with identity management, how many people in NATO are using biometrics and using identity management in terms of its ability to leverage technology out in the field? And when General Wolf talks about four different networks for NATO, just imagine how expensive it is to establish a separate network for every different community of interest that you have to establish. Within DOD, we have many communities of interest, many different networks, and it is exceedingly expensive for the way we operate and we have to change that in today’s modern era. So that is the challenge that we have in the information age and, as I said, we are not going to realize that vision that this workshop talked about quite a bit if we do not leverage the kind of insights that these panel members have brought forward.


Top of page | Home | ©2007 Center for Strategic Decision Research